Ivo in China (October 2010)

For the past two weeks, Ivo has been travelling China again. His report after the first week.

After 3 jam-packed days in Hong Kong I jumped on the train to Guangzhou, giving me time for a quick update.

Right after arriving in Hong Kong I joined the convention of the International Apparel Federation (IAF). The IAF is a platform for know-how exchange for the worldwide industry. The organisation is currently led by Harry van Dalfsen, former president of Modint and former member of the FWF board. The IAF convention offered opportunities to link up with various industry representatives. Besides that, a range of speakers shared their thoughts on an array of topics which I’m far from familiar with. To name just a few; how about the potential role of social media for marketing strategies of fashion brands, or the digitisation of supply chain? On the minus side, few words were said on initiatives to improve working conditions. Which, I think, points out that there is great potential added value that FWF could bring to IAF. Hope we get on stage next time.

During the convention I managed to free up some time to meet with a few of my contacts in Hong Kong. Among others I met with representatives of LESN and SACOM, with whom I had an informal evaluation on FWF’s approach on factory trainings, which we’ve been encouraging our members to engage their suppliers in. The score so far is mixed. On the one hand, factory trainings carried out by NGOs do contribute to strengthened awareness on labour rights among workers and management staff. Simultaneously these trainings, which are currently limited to one day sessions for a single factory due to various considerations, are too shallow to make a meaningful contribution to social dialogue on factory level in the long run. According to the consulted parties, training activities which involve workers and management should be deepened, with the ultimate objective of encouraging management and workers to engage in a collective contract. This should result in improved wages and substantial reduction of workforce turnover, from which both parties would win. More work will definitely be done in this regard.

Tomorrow I’ll travel further into mainland China to the mighty city of Wuhan in Hubei Province. A lot of talking goes around on factories relocating from the coast to China’s hinterland, where wages are lower and workers can find employment near their homes. I thought it would be interesting to go find out what this looks like in practice..

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